By Bob Freeville
The problem with nostalgia is that it isn’t born of a photographic memory, rather an idealized recollection of the most magical parts of a whole. For instance, the Adolescent You may have thrilled to that moment in Nightmare on Elm Street 4 where the victim turns into an insect while working out. Consequently the Adult You built that solitary moment up to the point where you still go around telling people how ‘Nightmare 4’ was the most bad-ass entry in the series.
You would arguably be totally wrong and a douche for even thinking it. Evidence of your douchery would be painted all over your slack-jawed face if you were to rent the movie now and see what you didn’t see then (,i.e.: how ridiculous and lame much of the movie is).
None of this is to say that the original movie The Lost Boys (1987) wasn’t good. In fact, as Eighties vampire movies—and Joel Schumacher films—go, it was unique, well-done and pretty awesome. In fact, one’s nostalgia for The Lost Boys is a bit of nostalgia that’s more deserving than most. It is a film that, even today, holds up rather well (despite the fashion and music trends of its day) and can still provoke laughs and jumps from a keen audience.
No, nostalgia is not the problem when it comes to the more recent The Lost Boys entries. The (main) problem isn’t even the fact that there is at least one too many “the”s in their titles. Actually the problem is the lack of nostalgia. Not by the revived franchise’s fans, who obviously have all the sense of nostalgia in the world (hence their on-going interest in sequels to a film that is nearly thirty-three years old), but by the producers and studio behind this renewed saga.
When Warner Premiere released The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe in 2008 I, along with legions of L.B. Fans, ran right out and rented it with high hopes of Edgar Frog (Corey Feldman)’s triumphant return to vampire slaying.
The inclusion of the original theme (“Cry Little Sister”) in the trailer seemed like a good sign that we would get what we were longing for, even if the track was a redux by some emo band. But the goofiness of the opening beheading and the subsequent cavalcade of eye-liner and neon Ducatis pissed most loyalists off.
Where was the mood and texture of Schumacher’s original? Where was the Wow Moment like we got when Kiefer and his Brood ripped the roof off some young punkers’ jalopy? They were in absencia and all we could do was grin and bear it, pretending that the presence of another Sutherland as the head vampire would be a sufficient stand-in for the original “boy.” He wasn’t.
Personally I sat through ‘The Tribe’ twice, just to make sure that my initial reaction (“This sucks!”) was both correct and justified. It was and it was. Faith had been lost. But this faith was restored when Feldman came out on horror websites to publicly acknowledge the missteps of ‘The Tribe’ and assure fans and detractors alike that the third installment was carefully developed to the strengths of its source material, by him personally, among others.
Reuniting the Frog Brothers? Going back to the well for inspiration? All sounded on the upswing. Then ‘The Thirst’ begins. And we realize, right away, that our own thirst is not being quenched. At least not for the first hour, which is giving it far more time than a sales rep would have given it at any screening.
And speaking of time, despite the covenant proffered in the press for the pic, the Frog Brothers Reunion amounts to Feldman and Newlander sharing less than thirty minutes together on screen.
The opening sequence, in which Alan Frog (Jamison Newlander) exclaims, “It’s the attack of Grandpa Munster!” is less nostalgia for the original and more cluelessness where the cravings of the fans are concerned.
Anyone who knows anything about how to mount a successful sequel (or threequel) knows to avoid repeating oneself at every cost. But, from the looks of it, the studio, seeing how they failed with the liberties they took with Part 2, assumed their way back into our good graces was by way of referencing lines and characters from the first film. Wrong again, Scatman.
It’s imminent, from the start, that this is a film by committee and one that gives its fan base no credit. The exposition set-ups and time-setting title cards of the first act should turn off said fans, unless they are as dumb as the filmmakers clearly assumed they were. To which I can only say, “If I wanted to watch a monster movie for mental midgets I’d rent an Ewww! Boll movie.”
The aforesaid Wow Moment may have been scripted and executed in the form of the parachuting vampire sequence of the First Act and it may have worked…if this was 1987. But we’ve already seen this sort of thing before and in far more breathtaking form. Matter of fact, we saw it at the end of the 80’s in Point Break (1991) and in several terrific variations thereafter (Crank’s helicopter scene comes to mind).
Parts of the film play like a Lifetime flick (Alan’s post-cemetery voice-over) while most play like a SyFy channel flick. The through-line, though, is pure B-comedy.
Corey Feldman’s faux-gravelly voice is so forced as to elicit chuckles that are more pity than pith. Indeed, even Edgar Frog himself, must say, “That’s enough of that” once the movie reaches its climax.
And he does. This, and the majority of the flick’s lame gags, are all the more unfortunate because Feldman is an actor with a serious talent, a talent that is rarely let out of its restraints. For proof of his substance and ability, seek out an import of Eugenio Mira’s The Birthday (or 2008’s Terror Inside, of which he was the only noteworthy part).
In ‘The Thirst’ Feldman does his best, as Executive Producer, to acquit himself well and make a good-looking bad-ass male lead, and he mostly achieves good results. But then there’s always a bright kernel that stands out in an otherwise unremarkable hunk of shit. And if he really wanted to make an impression he might have avoided starting off the film by looking like some motley hybrid of Carrot Top and Kurt Cobain.
This isn’t to say that the whole movie is no good. The special effects are some of the most venerable in the Direct-to-DVD realm. But virtually everything on display has been seen many times over, including the pic’s central concept of beasties taking over the rave scene (Beyond The Rave, Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave). It’s hard to grasp why someone would want to make a remake or a sequel, especially a sequel to something from several decades ago, if they didn’t intend to break new ground within its structure.
The movie starts to take a turn for the better (or, at least, more deliberately horrifying) at the tail-end of the Second Act. But by this point, the (presumably) unintentional effect has already been cemented—little here should be taken seriously.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Horror movies are loved, far and wide, for how much fun their audiences have watching them. And ‘The Thirst’ does have its conclusion in the spirit of that fun. But based on the advanced hype, the producers had us believe that we were getting something with the stark gallow’s humor and pure macabre atmosphere of The Lost Boys when what they delivered was more like the absurd shenanigans of The Lost World (aka Jurassic Park 2).
All bark with very little bite. 2 cleavers for Corey Feldman’s presence. 2 cleavers for dank dwellings. 3 cleavers for mention of “cannibal pirates.” Subtract 3 cleavers for Feldman’s voice and the failure to make good on the visual of “cannibal pirates.” Add extra cleavers if you dig Kaizer Soze plot twists and protracted sword battles.
So where does that leave us now? With the poorly-executed trilogy in the bag, one would think it’s good and buried, but over the years, The Feldmeister has flirted with the idea of a fourth entry.
What would a fourth film look like? If we go on the existing evidence, it would probably be little more than a contemporized retread of the original sans any of the superb visuals or formidable atmosphere of the same.
Here’s hoping that the folks at Warner Premiere will reconsider this much-loved franchise and go the responsible route with a fourth one. What that would entail, of course, is their hiring competent young writers and directors (Simon Barret and Adam Wingard immediately leap to mind, having already helmed an incredible reboot of Blair Witch) with a real affinity for the source material.
As we’re likely to see next year when Danny McBride and David Gordon Green roll out their reboot of John Carpenter’s Halloween, the best approach to these kinds of things is to return to the simplicity of the original’s design instead of mucking about with modernity.
Should Warner Premiere and Corey Feldman take notes on the first ‘Lost Boys’ in order to capture its magic instead of copying its best catchphrases, we might get a worthy drop of new blood.
If not, then they might as well give it to ole Uwe (he of atrocious video game adaptations and dollar store serial killer fare). Anything other than a fresh reinvigoration will be garbage and there’s enough of that already clogging up the genre drain.
Bob Freville is the author of “Battering the Stem” (Journalstone/Bizarro Pulp Press) and the writer/director of the Troma vampire flick “Hemo”. His work has appeared in Infernal Ink, Creem Magazine, Bizarro Central, Deadman’s Tome and more. To send him dirty pictures or death threats, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.